President Obama launches re-election bid in campaign rally at VCU

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President Barack Obama and the first lady spoke at a campaign rally at Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday in the second of two college campus appearances to launch his re-election bid for the White House.

A noisy crowd of 8,000 people, many of whom lined up early in the day and waited hours to enter the Siegel Center, listened to bands and a few speakers and watched campaign videos on the scoreboard monitors.

Speakers included VCU men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart, who introduced the others and expressed his pride that the president and first lady Michelle Obama had selected the VCU venue for the rally.

“They could have been anywhere in the country on the first day of campaign rallies, but they chose to be here with us,” Smart said. Obama and the first lady appeared earlier at Ohio State University.

Other speakers included Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, former Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott and graduating VCU senior Sai Iyer, who was the only student on the list of 35 governors, longtime Obama supporters and Hollywood celebrities selected as national co-chairs for the campaign.

Obama was introduced by the first lady.

“Hello, VCU!” Obama said to thunderous applause and foot stomping. He said he’d spent some time with the coach backstage and that Smart, who in 2011 led the VCU team to the Final Four, told him, “I just want you to know we’re going to be coming to the White House just like that Kentucky team. And he wasn’t smiling.”

Obama then spoke for about 20 minutes on his campaign’s themes.

The Obama campaign recruited scores of volunteers to help staff the rally at VCU. That cadre included VCU students, faculty and staff who wanted the chance to work on a campaign and see the president.